Iran: mistrust and verify

Writing about a new opinion poll suggesting that Iranians support their country’s nuclear program, but not the development of atomic weapons, Robert Wright asks: Why don’t we offer Iran something its public cherishes — the acknowledged right to enrich uranium — in exchange for radically more intrusive inspections, along with ratification of the additional protocol? ...

Writing about a new opinion poll suggesting that Iranians support their country's nuclear program, but not the development of atomic weapons, Robert Wright asks:

Writing about a new opinion poll suggesting that Iranians support their country’s nuclear program, but not the development of atomic weapons, Robert Wright asks:

Why don’t we offer Iran something its public cherishes — the acknowledged right to enrich uranium — in exchange for radically more intrusive inspections, along with ratification of the additional protocol? A version of this idea has been advanced by a group of experts that was convened by the American Foreign Policy Project and co-chaired by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and the aforementioned Gary Sick. It’s worth checking out.

I may be missing something here, but I believe this is very similar to what the United States has offered Iran, although not formally. We covered this issue on The Cable back in July, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a speech:

You have a right to pursue the peaceful use of civil nuclear power. You do not have a right to obtain a nuclear weapon. You do not have the right to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control."

The key point here is that Iran’s right to enrich isn’t unconditional — under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it has to prove that its intentions are peaceful. I don’t know of too many experts who believe Iran has met that test. Another important question is whether Iran could regain its right to "full enrichment" if it does so. Wright says:

The closest such overture was a 2008 offer that would have imposed tougher inspections but denied Iran the right to enrich uranium as allowed under the N.P.T. until “the confidence of the international community in the exclusively peaceful nature of your nuclear program is restored” — which to the average Iranian means, “not until America says so.”

Well, what’s the alternative? Just accept Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s good word? Mistrust, and verify, I say.

(Hat tip: Yglesias)

Tag: Iran

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